cycling

Lance Armstrong saga brings out the vitriol

Yoda-speak: Hate leads to anger, anger leads … to writing about Lance Armstrong.

As with the opinion on Jon Jones v UFC, mainstream punditry seems to have shifted. Or maybe it just depends on what news organization you read. You’re read my take — either nuanced or wishy-washy, depending on how charitable you are. And I already mentioned George Vecsey’s take, in which the great columnist thinks Armstrong likely wasn’t doing anything others weren’t doing as well.

Let’s see what else is out there:

At USA TODAY, my excellent former colleague Christine Brennan bluntly labels Armstrong a cheater.

The Washington Post, on the other hand, aims both barrels of anger at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Tracee Hamilton: “Either a drug test is the standard, or it isn’t.” (To which Marion Jones could respond, “Wait, I didn’t have to go to jail?”)  Sally Jenkins, who duly gives the disclaimer that she has written with Armstrong, says curiously uses alleged World Anti-Doping Agency misdeeds and ties them to what she sees an overzealous U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which is a bit like throwing Sepp Blatter’s problems at Sunil Gulati’s feet.

Jenkins also implores Congress to step in and do something about “the WADA-USADA system,” calling it “simply incompatible with the U.S. legal system.”

So … I guess we won’t be sending any more athletes to the Olympics?

That said — Jenkins raises and repeats valid concerns about WADA and international arbitration. But thinking Congress can sort it out sure feels like betting on the wrong horse.

(Update: The Post is far from unanimous — Mike Wise calls Armstrong’s move a vindication of his longtime critics. One point worth mentioning: Armstrong’s critics don’t gain anything financially. Far from it. They stand to lose a lot. It’s not like the old WADA days where Dick Pound used his position to keep his name out there and occasionally tweak Americans.)

How do Armstrong’s sponsors feel? Former USA TODAY colleague Mike McCarthy finds Michelob Ultra sticking with him, and Oakley basically says “Prove it.”

Slate offers two takes — Josh Levin says Armstrong has managed to keep a core of true believers (looking around the Web and my own Facebook feed, I’d argue it’s more than a small core) and his “righteous indignation.” Jeremy Stahl, who has covered cycling, echoes the points Vecsey and I have made — if you strip Lance, who of the other suspected or convicted dopers will take his titles?

The Economist’s Game Theory blog, a good quirky read for those of us who like quirky sports coverage, views the Armstrong saga as a tragedy.

Let’s leave it to Mike Lopresti, a pro’s pro among columnists, to add some gray to the black-and-white case:

What Lance Armstrong shows us is that human nature will never be as straightforward as a box score or a talk show. We are quick to build up and even quicker to tear down, because to do either draws attention. But sport, like life, is almost always somewhere in the middle. Too bad, Armstrong’s story is not neat. They seldom are, those epics cluttered by flesh-and-blood. No matter how much we yearn them to be.

Metric, one of my favorite bands, has this lyric on their new album: “They were right when they said we should never meet our heroes.”  Perhaps it’s not so much that we shouldn’t meet them. Perhaps we need to be careful not to see them in absolutes.

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Categories: cycling

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1 reply »

  1. Thanks for the clarification, Beau. As I said on Twitter, I have no particular urge to defend Sally Jenkins, I just think her point is that Congress does have the power to address any of USADA’s methods which may seem to be an abuse of power (for example), since USADA is mostly federally funded. And since USADA is a “member organization” of WADA, so to speak (I picture them like Russian nesting dolls), they base their rules & regulations on WADA’s rules & regulations. At least that’s what I got from her article. I don’t truly think she expects Congress to act against WADA. But who knows…

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